City Places Development Rights Above Public Health / Facebook post, Whatcom Hawk, Wendy Harris

whatcom hawk
Yesterday at 2:54pm July 28, 2015  Wendy Harris

I am writing this as I breathe in sawdust and diesel fumes from construction next door, yards from my bedroom and office.

As someone with lung disease, I know that diesel exhaust from power tools and equipment and the sawdust particulates from sawing, sanding, etc. are particularly deadly and I am feeling really sick, waking up daily with a sore throat. The noise from the construction is disrupting my sleep and my peace of mind during the day. And up next, I will have to deal with the dangerous fumes from the polishing and finishing process, like the VOC paint fumes.

I know I should leave the apt right now, but here is the kicker.. I actually do not feel well enough to go. When I say this city is killing me, I mean it literally.

This is the second house located yards from my apt that has had major construction this summer. The first one involved mold remediation and asbestos removal. Both these units are rentals, and one was proceeding without a permit until I reported it to the city.

This comes after I was constructively evicted from my house in Silver Beach due to storm water run-off and my doctor told me I had to leave. And here I am again, in another part of town, where once again, my health is being seriously compromised from the city’s preference for accommodating developers.

I asked the city if there was anything they could do to protect me in this situation given my fragile health and the state of my lungs. They said, “no.” I asked if they could require the developer to put up plastic sheeting around the house to help keep in the dust and fumes from affecting me. They said, “no, but if he wants to do it voluntarily, he can.” In the meanwhile, a new layer of dust covers my furniture daily.

There is a hidden cost to redevelopment and infill that no one is talking about. You may not be as sick as me today, but you could be later in life due to what you are being exposed to right now. Impacts that take years to show up are the most dangerous and the most under-regulated.

And the more densely we pack people in, the more harmful all of these air quality impacts become, because it will only increase and be located closer to us. And it does not stop after construction. Once new residents move in, they bring car exhaust fumes, fumes from lawn and power tools, wood smoke, chemicals from yard work, etc. And the city is clearly unwilling to increase the regulatory burdens on developers to provide better protection, or the regulatory burden on residents, like restricting the use of fire pits and wood burning stoves, or imposing quiet hours and enforceable noise restrictions.

I am angry at the city because it is allowing developers to further compromise my health, but the reality is that they are doing this to you as well. Simply because you have not yet felt the impacts yet does not mean they do not exist. If we are going to have an honest discussion about infill and density, we need to bring in the non-financial costs borne by existing residents.

Read Wendy’s post on the Whatcom Hawk Facebook page here.

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